Warren Gran, a New York City architect, died Sunday at age 85 in Los Angeles.
Gran practiced in New York City for over 45 years and was known for his commitment to making social change through architecture. Gran specialized in public and non-profit projects with an emphasis on affordable housing, sustainability, and social responsibility, including supportive housing for the homeless and those suffering from mental health and substance abuse problems. He worked on many projects with the New York Public Schools, producing innovative spaces to help children with autism and other developmental disabilities.
Prominent projects include: PS/IS 395, PS/IS 78Q Robert F. Wagner School in Long Island City, PS/IS 109 in Brooklyn, multiple projects for the Bank Street College of Education, and Brooklyn Family Court. His renovation of and addition to PS 14 won an AIA New York Design Award. Gran was also awarded the Boston Society of Architects/AIA Award for his work on the Lighthouse Charter School in the Bronx. One of his most visible projects was the conversion of a large Brooklyn courthouse on Adams Street into two high schools. A rooftop addition provided gyms and a signature look with red cylinders facing the street.
On Morris Avenue in the Bronx, his 1974 housing development built with then-partner Irv Weiner, Melrose D-1 (a.k.a. the Michelangelo Apartments), has been described as an overlooked, pioneering, humane answer to housing problems that still plague the city today. “Why look at Melrose D-1 today? Because it acknowledges housing as a banal, repetitive, highly cost-driven design problem, and makes a virtue out of it,” wrote Susanne Schindler in The Avery Review in 2012. The complex is praised for its innovative floor plan, with access to three courtyards landscaped by Henry Arnold.
Gran also worked in historic preservation. Among the prominent projects he worked on were the renovation of the dome at Manhattan Surrogate Court, the Manhattan Appellate Court, Queens Supreme Court, and a restoration of the Pratt Institute Library in collaboration with Giorgio Cavaglieri.
Gran also worked as a residential architect designing homes in New Jersey, Connecticut, the Hamptons, and upstate New York that were often inspired by vernacular rural architecture, and balanced humanism and modernist ideals. These include the Weininger Residence in the Hudson Valley and his own weekend home in Ghent, New York, where he and his wife Suzanne vacationed.
Gran’s career started while working in the office of the great Edward Larrabee Barnes. From 1967 to 2003 he taught architecture and urban design at Pratt Institute, also serving as the chairperson of the graduate program in urban design, the acting dean of the school of architecture, and teaching seminars at Yale, CUNY, Cooper Union, and NYU. He earned his Bachelor of Architecture at Penn State and his Masters in Planning from Pratt. Students have always said he was incredibly tough—but that they appreciated that toughness, and what he taught them launched their careers.
He was a member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Urban Design Committee of AIA’s New York chapter.
Gran was an officer in the navy in the late ‘50s, on the aircraft carrier the USS Ticonderoga. During these years he kept an apartment on Fillmore Street in San Francisco that was memorialized in Herb Caen’s San Francisco Chronicle column: Apparently, Gran and his Navy buddies’ parties were so loud the nightclub downstairs had to complain.
Suzanne of Kansas City, Missouri, worked at The New Yorker magazine throughout the 1960s. Suzanne died in July of 2017. They are survived by two daughters, designer Eliza Gran and novelist Sara Gran, who went to Saint Ann’s and now live in Los Angeles. Warren is also survived by three grandchildren, Violet Phillips, 19, Ruby Phillips, 17, and Charles Wolf Phillips, 14.